About: I started working on my Ph.D. in 2012 with Bruce Baldwin and am thrilled to be studying botany in California. At the broadest level, I am a systematist who studies the causes and consequences of endemism in plants. Endemism can take many forms, including biogeographical endemism of range-restricted taxa, edaphic endemism, host endemism of parasitic plants, and phylogenetic endemism.
A native of south-central Wisconsin, I received my B.S. summa cum laude from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire with a double major in Biology and Chemistry. During this time I studied abroad at the University of Ghana and was a summer curatorial intern at the Charles Darwin Research Station Herbarium in the Galápagos Islands. A complete CV can be found here.
My dissertation studies host specificity, genome evolution, and systematics of holoparasitic new-world Orobanche (Orobanchaceae). Orobanche are root parasites found around the world. One clade, comprised of the sections Myzorhhiza (=Nothaphyllon) and Gymnocaulis, is endemic to the western hemistphere. This includes approximately 30 minimally ranked taxa found mostly in western North America, though some are widespread across the continent and several disjunct species are found in South America. Specific research aims include:
Host-specific lineages in Orobanche—Several recently described species in Orobanche are found to have unique host preferences, such as O. arizonica and O. riparia. Growing evidence, particularly using molecular phylogenetics, suggests that host switching and lineage splitting may go hand-in-hand. Cryptic host-specific lineages may also mean that well-known "species" may in fact be rarer than previously thought.
Other Current Research:
Diversification of Hesperolinon — Hesperolinon, or Western Flax, are a small but morphologically diverse genus of flax, endemic to the western United States. It is notable for its high and geographically-concentrated species diversity on serpentine-derived soils, with 12 of the 13 species found in Lake and Napa Counties of California, an area smaller than the state of Delaware. It has also become a model system in disease ecology. Most diversification in Hesperolinon has taken place in the last 1-2 million years. What can such radiations tell us about the process of speciation and colonization of edaphically harsh substrates?
Flowering times on Serpentine Soils — What are the consequences of edaphic endemism? Several studies have shown that serpentine-adapted ecotypes flower earlier than their non-serpentine counterparts, but do these affects have any evolutionary significance deeper phylogenetic scales? Using several methods, including both model testing and sister-group comparisons I am testing this widely cited hypothesis across numerous angiosperm lineages.
Previous Research Activities:
Plant Responses to Varying Water Availability — Many studies have looked at the effects of drought on plants, but few have independently compared rainfall volume and frequency. This study was the first to do so in a controlled environment that allowed access to below-ground plant parts. Working with Tali Lee and others, we found that for a wide range of growth parameters, a 50% reduction in watering frequency did not significantly affect either species as long as there was no overall reduction in total water volume. Species showed differing response to reduced overall volume: Lupinus showed a reduction in growth and nitrogen fixation rates, while Agropyron adjusted its leaf physiology to compensate. Reductions in both water volume and watering frequency showed synergistic effects. Overall, this work clearly illustrates the non-parallel responses of plant species to abiotic variables. It suggests that predictions of vegetation responses to climate change could be improved by considering these two dimensions of water availability independently. The need to consider a more multidimensional view of climate patterns in understanding biotic effects to climate change was also discussed in a recent review paper I contributed to in Global Change Biology.
A complete CV is available here.
Teaching is one of the highlights of my job. I am also committed to improving my own pedagogical skills through workshops, classes, and classroom observations. This has led to my completion of a Certificate of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, offered by the UC Berkeley Graduate Division. I have experience teaching laboratories, leading field trips, and giving occasional guest lectures in several classes taught at UC Berkeley, including Vascular Plant Systematics, Medical Ethnobotany, and California Plant Life. I have also assisted with several public workshops offered by the Jepson Herbarium and other outreach programs.
One of the best things about being a field botanist is the wonderful natural areas one is able to visit. I enjoy virtually anything that will get me outside: biking, hiking, backpacking, cross country skiing, paddle sports, conservation work projects, and gardening. I also enjoy cooking and do-it-yourself projects, and since moving out to California I have taken up home brewing. Finally, as both an evolutionary biologist and a confessing Lutheran (ELCA), I also enjoy contemplating the interplay between science and religion historically and in our modern society.
Before starting graduate school, I worked as a professional canoe guide in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, a place that remains my spiritual home. I taught wilderness canoeing, camping, and leadership skills to all types of people, but mostly middle and high schoolers. I am always looking forward to my next trip into the Northwoods, but in the meantime I live there vicariously through the writings of Sigurd Olsen and others.